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Have you ever walked into a room and felt your self looking for an escape route with no reasonable explanation? Or maybe a simple look at Santa Claus sends sirens off in your head? If you’re finding yourself nodding along, chances are you’ve had the collywobbles!

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Collywobbles /ˈkɒlɪwɒb(ə)lz/

-noun

An upset stomach; fluttering in the stomach caused by nervousness or apprehension

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In the literal sense, having the collywobbles means to experience intestinal discomfort or pain. The humorous term first appeared in 1823 in an edition of the Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, written by Francis Grose and revised by Pierce Egan:

“Collywobbles, the gripes.”

The reasoning behind the word is not fully known; however it is thought that it was created through the combination of colic and wobble. Many believe that this is an inappropriate term considering the pandemic spread of cholera in those times.  Another theory suggests that the word was created by uneducated individuals who could not properly make sense of the medical term cholera morbus.

In modern times, the word has slightly transformed in meaning, and is now often employed figuratively to describe a fluttering in the stomach caused by nervousness or apprehension. One of the more recent appearances was in The Spectator in 2010:

“But it’s that terrible, tooth-furring nervousness of the BBC; the corporation gets the collywobbles whenever a programme is essentially serious.”

As usual, here are a few sentences with this week’s wacky word in action:

  • I couldn’t go into that haunted house, it really gave me the collywobbles.
  • Considering how much Matt ate last night, it’s really no surprise he’s complaining of the collywobbles!
  • I didn’t have time to study last night, so just thinking of the Math exam gives me the collywobbles!

That’s all we have for today, but remember- the next time you sense something giving you the collywobbles, it’s best to turn around and walk away! Don’t go too far though, as we’ll be back next week with even more wacky words!

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